Gov. Baker sees 'massive loss of critical funds' under GOP health plan

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday urged congressional Republicans to reconsider plans to approve an amended version of the American Health Care Act. "While the AHCA bill has been amended," he said, " it would still result in a massive loss of critical funds for the commonwealth."

BOSTON — The health care bill that congressional Republicans plan to bring to the House floor for a vote Thursday afternoon would result in "a massive loss of critical funds" for Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said.

A vote on an amended version of the American Health Care Act is expected to reach the U.S. House floor for a vote Thursday afternoon, but in a statement the Republican governor said he hopes Congress reconsiders.

"Our administration will continue to protect Massachusetts' health care system, which leads the nation in health care coverage, and while the AHCA bill has been amended, it would still result in a massive loss of critical funds for the Commonwealth," Baker said in a statement. "In the meantime, I am thankful for the federal government's willingness to work with Massachusetts to deliver greater flexibility through the Medicaid system and I hope Congress reconsiders this amended legislation."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that House leadership has the votes to get the latest edition of the AHCA through the House.

Forty-two days ago, the first iteration of the AHCA crumbled under the weight of unanimous Democratic opposition and conflicting Republican ideologies, leading Speaker Paul Ryan to pull the bill from the floor. The failure was seen as a blow to President Donald Trump's agenda and Republican campaign promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The potential loss of federal revenues, a major source of funds for the state budget, could compound budget problems associated with tax collections that for many months now have come in well short of the projections that Baker and legislative leaders have used to plan state spending.

With two months left in fiscal 2017, state tax collections are running $462 million behind budgeting benchmarks and Revenue Commissioner Michael Heffernan on Wednesday suggested Beacon Hill should reconsider its revenue assumptions for fiscal 2018. The Massachusetts House last week passed its fiscal 2018 budget and the Senate is expected to offer and pass its own version this month.

In a March letter to members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Baker estimated the first version of the American Health Care Act would result in $1 billion less in federal revenue for Massachusetts in 2020, $1.3 billion less in 2021 and $1.5 billion in 2022, "with likely a greater annual impact in the years that follow." While he warned of the potential "massive loss" of funds, Baker did not attach a number in his statement on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, in an email to supporters last week, labeled the latest bill "Trumpdon'tcare the Sequel."

The Massachusetts delegation, all Democrats, unanimously panned the AHCA when it first appeared destined for a vote in March, asserting it would leave millions of people uninsured and decimate state budgets by removing Medicaid funding supports.

During a White House press briefing Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer said maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions is atop Trump's priority list as he negotiates with lawmakers who have shown tepid support previously.

"What the president is doing is ensuring, going forward as we attempt to repeal and replace it, that coverage of pre-existing conditions is at the core of that," Spicer said. "So that is something that he is ensured is in the current bill and we'll continue to push for to make sure that coming out of the Senate and going to conference it's there as well."

Spicer on Wednesday said Trump has been active behind the scenes to shore up support for the bill ahead of Thursday's planned vote.

"The president has been on the phone constantly. The vice president, the chief of staff, other members of the legislative affairs team calling members, talking to them, hearing their concerns," he said of Trump. "But I think we have made this an unbelievable bill and an unbelievable replacement for Obamacare, which is failing, and that's what we've sought to do from the beginning."